Letters Say The Police Harassed Teen, Officer

By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 29, 2007

Haymarket Police Chief James E. Roop wrote a letter to the public about a year ago asking whether people wanted a professional police department with a good reputation or "a soap opera."

If recent complaints filed with the town and the Prince William County commonwealth's attorney's office are any indication, the soap opera has just entered a second season.

A 17-year-old Haymarket girl and a 30-year-old town police officer filed complaints with the town, saying that Roop and other officers accused them of having a sexual affair, causing them anguish and embarrassment. The teenager, whom The Washington Post is not naming because she is a minor, also filed a complaint with the commonwealth's attorney's office, writing a five-page letter detailing how she was questioned by Roop and others until she was in tears.

"I was being accused of being the victim of a sexual misconduct investigation and was being treated like a suspect by his questioning without my parents present," the teenager wrote in the letter.

At one point, Roop told her, "why can't you be fat and ugly," she wrote. "I was crying while in the chief's office and starting to feel very uncomfortable at his remarks."

Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D) said that his office had received the complaint but that he could not confirm or deny whether an investigation was pending.

Calls to the Haymarket Police Department for Roop were directed to Town Manager Gene Swearingen, who said he could not talk about the case because it is an ongoing personnel issue.

"At this point, we're following our standard procedure for employee complaints," Swearingen said. "Once we are through with that process, we will be able to talk a little more freely about it."

Officer Benjamin L. Ishmael wrote two letters of complaint to Haymarket Mayor Pam E. Stutz. In one, he cites workplace sexual harassment by Roop and Sgt. Greg Breeden, alleging that he has heard them using inappropriate sexual language daily at work.

"At this time I have at least four other persons that are willing and have given me written sworn statements that state that this type of behavior has been ongoing with the Town of Haymarket Police Department," he wrote in his complaint.

In the second complaint, Ishmael claims defamation of character. He says that the department's internal investigation into him was not kept confidential and that even before the investigation started, many town residents were aware of the allegations against him. The leak, he wrote, "has tarnished my reputation and slandered my image before the public."

Ishmael wrote both letters after being suspended without pay April 5.

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